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Herbs & Mints

 

Herbs: (Be sure to further research herbs and mints before use in foods, soaps or ointments.  Some are not for everybody.)

<Some medicinal uses may be mentioned, but this is intentionally left vague as no advice is to be expected in that area.>

 

Angelica (Angelica) - Grow in deep, moist, fertile loamy soil in full to part shade.  They bear large umbels of small flowers followed by flat, ribbed brown fruit.  It has been used for various medicinal purposes, including digestive ailments, however it should not be used by pregnant women or persons with diabetes.  Its culinary use includes candies, soups, fish and other dishes.  The herb’s name comes from the Latin term herba angelica; it was believed to protect against evil and to be a cure all for ailments.

 

Anise (Pimpinella anisum) - Annual, aromatic herb with the strong flavor of licorice.  Used to flavor liqueurs, baked goods, fruits, candies, tobacco, and cough drops.  Fresh leaves can be used in salads and vegetables.  Bright green foliage sports tiny, cream-colored flowers in midsummer.  Pick leaves when fully mature and collect seed heads in the fall when they begin to change color.

 

Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) - Erect perennial with anise scented flowers and leaves.  It is an outstanding ornamental with attractive gray-green foliage and showy, purple flowers that appear in late summer.  Uses include dried leaves in teas, fruit salads, drinks, and flowers in potpourris.  Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.  A traditional medicine among several North American native tribes.

 

Arugula (Eruca sativa) - Upright mustard-like annual with spicy toothed leaves and cream, four-petal flowers with purple veins that appear in late summer to autumn.  Generally harvested in the cool seasons for their younger leaves, older tall leaves can be harvested as well for their stronger taste.  The peppery flavored leaves may be added to stir-fries, pasta sauces, and salads.  When the plant blots in early summer, the flowers can be used as well.

 

African Blue Basil (Ocimum kilimandscharicum x basilicum pupereum) - Ornamental hybrid basil with clove-like taste and smell, purple-green foliage and flowers are pink with a dark purple calyx.  It is a sterile, perennial basil propagated only from cuttings.  The flowers make for an attractive, edible garnish.  It is heat and drought resistant.  Excellent as an ornamental, and attracts bees to the garden.  Leaves can be used for salads and pesto.  

 

Cinnamon Basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Cinnamon’) - A Mexican cultivar with dark green leaves, decorative purple stems, light pink flower spikes, and a distinctive cinnamon-like aroma.  Cinnamon basil has a wide variety of uses, from cookies and teas to vinegars and jellies.  It’s a spicy addition to potpourris!

 

Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum, Ocimum tenuiflorum) - Shrubby perennial with spicy, pungent, clove-scented leaves that are used in salads or other cold dishes.  It has violet or white flowers in summer.  Native to India, it gets its name from its use in Hindu rituals.

 

Lemon Basil (Ocimum × citriodorum) - From northwestern India, this bushy herb has citrus-scented leaves that highly compliment fish and shrimp dishes and herb vinegars.  Produces white flowers followed by lemon-scented seeds.

 

Dark Opal Basil (Ocimum basilicum var purpureum) - Attractive, highly aromatic cultivar, bred at the University of Connecticut in the 1950’s, with purple-black leaves and cerise-pink flowers.  Uses include salads and soups, and is very ornamental in the garden.  A favorite for adding purple color to vinegars.

 

Purple Ruffles Basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Purple Ruffles’) - Outstanding cultivar with large, shiny, frilly purple-black leaves that are interestingly fringed and crinkled.  Makes a bushy, ornamental plant with ample foliage for culinary use.  Strong flavor and very fragrant. Adds flavor and color to vinegars.  Use flowers as garnish on salads, soups and drinks.

 

Red Rubin Basil (Ocimum basilicum 'Purpurascens') - Flavor is more intense than sweet basil, its red-purple leaves are also very ornamental in the garden.  Uses include salads, soups, pastas, vinegars, oils and as an attractive garnish.

 

Spicy Globe Basil (Ocimum basilicum "Spicy Globe") - mounding, pale green leaves, it produces tiny white flowers.  It has a tidy, globe habit and is ornamental as well as culinary.  Having the same flavor as sweet basil, it can be used just the same.  The stems remain tender, so using it pinched is just fine.

 

Sweet Basil, Italian Large Leaf (Ocimum basilicum) - Erect, highly aromatic annual with bright green leaves.  It produces small white flowers in summer to mid-autumn.  This is the most common culinary basil.  Uses are wide and varied, from tomato flavored dishes and sauces (pasta and pesto)  to soups, stuffings, oils and vinegars.

 

Borage (Borago officinalis) - Has a cucumber-like flavor and is used to flavor liqueurs, salads, and summer drinks.  The star-shaped flowers can be candied and used as garnishes.  Its seed oil has been used medicinally.  Borage, however, contains small amounts of a substance that is toxic to the liver.  Pregnant women should avoid it as well.

 

Caraway (Carum carvi) - Biennial herb with feathery leaves and delicate white flower heads.  Aromatic seeds are used to flavor cakes and breads and may also be used in a variety of meat dishes.  Leaves are mildly flavored somewhat of parsley-dill, and used in salads and soups.

 

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) - Popular for its stimulant effect on cats, the leaves of this herbaceous perennial herb can be used to make a refreshing tea and may be added to sauces and stews.  Pick leaves when young and use fresh or dried.  Its small blooms are fragrant and showy.

 

Lemon Catnip (Nepeta cataria var citriodora) - A fully hardy, lemon-scented cultivar often preferred for teas.

 

German Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) - A heavily blooming, apple-scented, annual herb, it has a less pronounced aroma than the Roman cultivar, but is less bitter as a tea ingredient.  It is the most common source for herbal chamomile.  

 

Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) - An aromatic herb used mainly for teas.  A mat-forming evergreen perennial with light green, apple-scented leaves.  Harvest flowers when open in the summer and dry for use.  It has been used for various medicinal purposes, but should be avoided in pregnancy.

 

Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) - An aromatic, anise-flavored herb.  Fresh leaves are added to potatoes, eggs, fish or sauces.  The flavor does not last with drying or extended cooking.  Use raw or frozen and add to dishes just before serving.  Harvest before flowering.

 

Onion Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) - Leaves and bulbs are used to add a mild onion flavor to soups, salads, soft cheeses, stir-fries, potatoes, and eggs.  Avoid lengthy cooking as this will eliminate the flavor.

 

Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) - Chopped leaves and flowers are used in the same manner as onion chives, but with some garlic flavor.

 

Coriander/Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) - Cultivated for more than 3,000 years, coriander is a favorite now the world over.  Leaves are used to flavor a wide variety of foods.  Seeds and roots are ingredients of curries, pickling spices, dishes a la grecque, salsas and bakery goods.  Gather leaves when young and use fresh.  Seeds are harvested when ripe and used whole or ground.

 

Curry Plant (Helichrysum italicum) - Gives a mild curry flavor when added to vegetables, rice, eggs and other dishes.  Harvest sprigs as needed and use fresh.  

 

Dill (Anethum graveolens) - Annual herb most popular for its use in making pickles, dill leaves are also useful in egg, vegetable, seafood, fish, and potato dishes. Makes an excellent vegetable dip when mixed with soft cheeses or sour cream.  Harvest leaves in spring and summer and use fresh or dried.

 

Echinacea (Echinacea Angustifolia) - Erect perennial which blooms pink with orange-brown disks in early summer.  Grow in deep, well-drained humus-rich soil in full sun.  Cut back stems as the flowers fade to encourage more flower production.  Roots and rhizomes are lifted in autumn and dried for medicinal uses.

 

Epazote (Chenopodium ambrosioides, Dysphania ambrosioides) - A strongly aromatic herb used to flavor corn, beans, and fish in Mexican and Central American dishes.  It should not be used in excess, and pregnant women should avoid its use.  Its medicinal uses vary, including as an anti-parasitic, but excessive use can be dangerous.

 

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) - A sweet, aromatic herb with a wide variety of uses.  The seeds and leaves are used in fish dishes; leaf bases have a delicate anise flavor and are used in salads or cooked as a vegetable; bruised or crushed leaves are used to make a nice tea.  Leaf bases are most tender in spring.  Leaves are picked for use at any time during the growing season.

 

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) - Woody perennial with daisy-like white flower heads in summer.  Grow in well-drained sandy soil in full sun.  Medicinal uses included the lowering of fever.  Pregnant women should not use it.

 

Garlic (Allium sativum) - A pungent herb used to enhance the flavor of meats, seafoods, and vegetables.  It is an essential ingredient in regional dishes all over the world.  Harvest in late summer or early autumn and leave to dry in the sun before storing.

 

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) - An aromatic, bitter herb.  It has a minty-sage taste and is used sparingly for culinary purposes with meats or vegetables.  Medicinally, it is used to quiet coughs, as an expectorant, to reduce inflammation and lower fever.  The concentrated oil is very dangerous to consume.

 

English Lavender, Munstead Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) - Flowers are picked fresh and crystallized to be added to jams, ice creams, and vinegars.  Dried flowers are used in potpourris and sachets.  Oil is used in perfumes and various toiletries.  Sweetly scented.

 

French Lavender (Lavandula dentata) - A strongly aromatic ornamental, the long lasting purple flowers can be dried for use in potpourris and sachets.  The essential oil is used in perfumes.

 

Leeks (Allium porrum) - Leeks have a sweet but mild onion flavor and are used to flavor salads, soups, and stir-fries.  They are slow growing, but provide a tasty reward.

 

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) - A favorite ingredient of herbal teas, it offers a delightful flavor.  Fresh leaves have a lemon flavor and are used in various dishes from salads, soups, and sauces, to fish and game.  It is used in vinegars, and as an ingredient in cordials and liqueurs.  Used either fresh or dried.

 

Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citratus) - A lemon scented, aromatic grass.  Leaves, fresh or dried, have traditionally been used for the flavoring of Asian dishes.  The oil is used for a food flavoring, an additive in soaps, and as an ingredient in herbal baths.

 

Lemon Verbena (Aloysia citriodora, Aloysia triphylla) - Fresh leaves are used in a variety of means to add a lemon flavor, from herbal teas to flavoring stuffings.  Makes salads even more interesting.  Dried leaves retain their fragrance well and are useful in potpourris. Harvest leaves in summer.

 

Sweet Marjoram (Origanum majorana) - A delicately flavored culinary herb used in soups, meat dishes, pastas and tomato sauces. Adds flavor to oil and vinegars.   Fresh leaves should be added about the end of cooking so as not to loose flavor.  Harvest leaves to use fresh or dried.

 

Cuban Oregano (Plectranthus amboinicus) - Green or variegated fleshy leafed herb used as seasoning throughout the Caribbean and Latin America.  Actually a plectranthus, it is used in sauces and salsas, and any other dish that calls for oregano.  It has a strong flavor so a little goes a long way.  Care should be taken not to over water.

 

Greek Oregano (Origanum vulgare hirtum, Origanum heracleoticum) - An aromatic herb with intense flavor.  Used in vegetable, fish and meat dishes.  And of course pizza!  Popular in many Italian, Spanish and Greek cuisines.  Use leaves fresh or dry and store for later use.

 

Italian Oregano (Origanum majoricum) - An important ingredient in many Mexican, Italian and Greek dishes, it blends well with basil and tarragon.  Complements other bold flavors like garlic and onion.  A favorite with tomatoes.  Use fresh or dried, but dried will have the most intense flavor.

 

Variegated Oregano (Origanum vulgare 'Variegata') - A hardy decorative perennial, the foliage makes an attractive and aromatic addition to the landscape.  It is as well a flavorful culinary herb!  Used as flavoring for dishes in addition to chili, garlic, tomatoes, onions, etc.  Leaves are more often used dried.

 

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) - Leaves are used as garnish and to add flavor to savory dishes, sauces, dressings, potatoes, stews and stuffings.  Italian flat-leafed parsley has a stronger flavor than the curled parsley, thus curled parsley is generally regulated to being a garnish.  Pick leaves throughout the growing season and use fresh, or dry or freeze for later use.  

 

Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) - Leaves and oil have a long-lasting aroma.  Leaves are used in potpourri.  Oil is important in perfumery and is used in toiletries, cosmetics, incense, insect repellent, and disinfectants.  Originating in India and Malaysia, patchouli was once used to scent fabrics from India as a distinction of origin.

 

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) - Grown for both culinary and ornamental uses, rosemary is a very versatile perennial evergreen flowering shrub.  An aromatic, flavorful herb, use fresh or dried leaves to flavor potatoes, meats, stews and soups.  Rosemary has a bit of a resinous taste and tough texture, so it is generally used finely chopped or in sprigs that can be discarded before serving.  Fresh sprigs steeped in vinegar or olive oil can be used to flavor sauces and dressings.  Collect leaves in spring and summer to dry for storage, or used fresh.  The discovery of the very hardy ‘Arp’ cultivar is credited to Madalene Hill in Arp, Texas.

 

Rue (Ruta graveolens) - An ornamental plant attractive as a landscape or potted plant, its foliage is often used in floral arrangements.  It was used medicinally for various ailments, including those of the nervous system.  Rue should not be taken internally as large amounts affect the central nervous system and could prove fatal; it is especially dangerous for pregnant women.

 

Common Sage (Salvia officinalis) - Very popular flavorful herb.  Gray-green leaves are used in a wide variety of foods from stuffings and sausages to teas and cheeses.  Violet flowers are edible, borne in early summer.

 

Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans, Salvia rutilans) - Delightful pineapple scented leaves can be used in cold drinks and fruit salads while the flowers can be made into fritters.  Harvest leaves before flowering and use fresh or dried.  Hummingbirds and butterflies love the scarlet flowers too!

 

Salad Burnet (Sanguisorba minor) - Attractive, low growing perennial with leaves that smell and taste like cucumber.  It is commonly used to flavor salads and French dressings but is also used in herbal butters, vinegars, cream cheese, and summer drinks.

 

Summer Savory (Satureja hortensis) - Comparable in aroma to marjoram and thyme, savory leaves are used to flavor vegetables, stuffings, sausages and other meat dishes.  Some use savory as a salt substitute.  Summer savory is sometimes used in the place of sage.

 

Winter Savory (Satureja montana) - A perennial form of savory, with a somewhat stronger aroma than summer savory.  The peppery leaves  are used the same as summer savory.  It grows into a an attractive flowering shrub with white to pale pink blooms midsummer to fall.

 

Sweet Herb, Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) - Leaves are picked and used fresh in spring and summer or dried for culinary use.  It is favored as beverage sweetener.  Sweet herb has a long history of use among native peoples of South America.  Its discovery by Europeans saw its use spread over the globe.

 

Malabar Climbing Spinach (Basella alba, Basella rubra) - Not a true spinach, it is a fast growing perennial vine with thick, mildly flavored,  succulent, nutritious leaves.  Leaves have a taste of pepper and citrus and are used fresh in salads, sauteed with eggs, cooked as a green or combined in some other delicious dish.  Cooked leaves do taste much like spinach.

 

New Zealand Spinach (Tetragonia tetragonioides) - Also not a true spinach, the leaves have a similar taste to spinach.  It makes an interesting, edible groundcover!  It has good salt tolerance.  Use it sautéed with garlic and onions, combined with eggs or with most any dish that calls for spinach.

 

Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) - A herbaceous perennial with stems branching to bear small buttony yellow flowers.  Medicinally, leaves and oil were used as an anti-parasitic and insect repellant, among other uses, but excess ingestion is very dangerous.  Tansy is used as a companion plant with other crops to ward off destructive insects.  Cut sprigs of tansy can be placed to repel flies and other flying insects.  Flowers can be added to potpourris.

 

Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) - Aromatic perennial with a mint-anise flavor, the French tarragon being stronger than the Russian.  Harvest in early summer before flowering.  Used with chicken, fish, veal, soups, salads and marinades.  

 

Thyme, Common (Thymus vulgaris) - Fragrant perennial herb with grayish green leaves and white to pale purple flowers in the summer.  Thyme has been used for thousands of years for many varied purposes.  Use in teas, with vegetables, in meat, fish and poultry dishes.  Or combine in bouquets, or use in potpourris.  Dry or freeze for future use.

 

Creeping Thyme (Thymus serpyllum) - Mat forming, perennial, very low growing herb with strongly scented summer flowers in mauve to purple clusters.  Excellent as a creeping groundcover.  Uses are like common thyme.

 

Lemon Thyme (Thymus citriodorus, 'Thymus citriodorus Variegata') - Lemon scented leaves of this perennial herb are excellent in culinary use.  Its pale lilac flowers appear in summer.  They can be green or variegated.  Use like common thyme.

 

Silver Posie Thyme (Thymus vulgaris 'Silver Posie') - Herbaceous perennial with white edged, grayish green leaves and pale, mauve-pink flowers.  Thyme can be used as a border planting or landscape filler as well as culinary.  Use like common thyme.

 

Toothache Plant (Acmella oleracea, Spilanthes acmella) - Easy to grow annual that bears gold and red cone-shaped flowers above glossy green leaves.  Also known as “peek-a-boo plant” for the flowers resembling eyes, it is a plant with interesting ornamental character. Leaves or flowers are chewed for their numbing effect.  There are  various other medicinal uses attributed to this plant. Culinary use includes leaves sparingly used in salads or stews.  Use of the plant can result in excessive salivation.

 

Watercress (Nasturtium officinale) - An aquatic to semi-aquatic perennial herb.  Leaves are added to salads, soups, and sauces. Watercress is high in iron, calcium and various vitamins.  

 

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) - Ornamental perennial herb with showy white blooms in summer.  It can be planted as a companion plant to repel some harmful insects and attract beneficial insects.  Yarrow has a long history as a medicinal herb, one use being to staunch blood from a wound.

 

 

Mints:

 

Apple Mint (Mentha suaveolens) - Perennial with white to pink flowers are produced in dense spikes in mid to late summer.  An apple-scented aromatic herb with a fruity flavor.  Leaves can be candied or used in apple mint jelly.

 

Best Mint (Mentha spicata ‘The Best’) - Vigorous grower in moist, fertile soil and light shade.  Excellent spearmint flavor.  Harvest young, tender leaves and stems for tea and flavoring.  Perennial.

 

Candy Mint (Mentha x piperita 'Candymint') - Perennial herb with lush deep green foliage.  Prefers moist, rich soil.  The intensely peppermint scented and flavored leaves are great for aromatic uses, teas and fruit drinks.

 

Catmint (Nepeta × faassenii) - Spreading perennial with finely hairy aromatic mid-green leaves.  Produces deep violet to lilac-blue flowers in summer.  Makes a tasty tea.  Thrives in hot, dry locations.  Catnip is a form of catmint.

 

Chocolate Mint (Mentha x piperita 'Chocolate') - Perennial herb useful for desserts and teas.  It has the flavor of peppermint with the taste of chocolate!  

 

Sweet Citrus Mint (Mentha x piperita ‘Sweet Citrus Mint’) - Vigorous spreading perennial, the foliage has the scent of fresh citrus fruit. Used as seasoning or a fragrant ornamental.

 

Corsican Mint (Mentha requienii) - Low growing, mat forming perennial with thin, prostrate rooting stems and mauve to lilac flowers.  Very aromatic foliage with strong peppermint fragrance.  Exciting choice to allow it to grow between paving stones.

 

Curly Mint (Mentha spicata ‘Crispa’) - A curly form of spearmint, it has aromatic leaves that make an attractive garnish.  Excellent for teas and jellies.

 

English Mint (Mentha spicata ‘English’) - Vigorously growing perennial with a sweet, spearmint fragrance.  Used for flavoring teas, sauce and jellies.  Harvest leaves and stems when tender.

 

Variegated Ginger Mint (Mentha x gentilis 'Variegata') - Has a spicy, fruity aroma.  Good as flavoring for melon, tomatoes, tea and salads.  Keep flowers removed for best growth and strongest flavor.

 

Grapefruit Mint (Mentha suaveolens x piperata) - Leaves have a taste like spearmint with a citrus tang.  May be used fresh or dried.  

 

Sweet Lemon Mint (Mentha x piperita ‘Sweet Lemon Mint’) - Spreading perennial whose foliage is the scent of sweet lemons.  Used as seasoning or a fragrant ornamental.

 

Mexican Marigold Mint (Tagetes lucida) - An anise-scented herb.  Dried leaves and flower tops are used in a popular tea in Latin America. Dried plant can be used to repel insects or burned as an incense.  Tolerates heat well.  For best flavor, harvest foliage before the flower tops swell.  Sometimes used as an alternate for tarragon.  

 

Orange Mint (Mentha x piperita citrata) -  An aromatic herb with the flavor and fragrance of citrus.  Use to make a tangy tea or in fruit drinks, or add to fruit salads.

 

Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium) - A perennial groundcover with bright leaves and strong minty fragrance much like spearmint.  It had culinary uses in the past, but the pennyroyal oil is highly toxic and definitely out of favor.  It can, however, be used as a natural insect repellant when planted in the landscape or containers.  Its dried leaves could be gathered for potpourri and a repellent also.  Wash hands after handling.

 

Peppermint (Mentha × piperita) - A fast growing, versatile, perennial with lilac-pink flowers.  It has many varied uses including flavoring for ice cream and candies, fragrance for toiletries and perfumes, delicious teas and iced drinks, and an additive to salads and any other use that might come to mind.  It also has a history of various medicinal uses.   

 

Pineapple Mint (Mentha suaveolens 'Variegata') - Vigorous perennial; its green leaves have broad cream margins.  It has the intense fruity fragrance of pineapple.  Use in desserts, fruit salads and fruit drinks, iced creations and jellies.

 

Spearmint (Mentha spicata) - Sweetly scented perennial with pink to white flowers.  Used for aromatic purposes and as seasoning in candies, tea and iced drinks.  Commercially, the spearmint oil is used in such items as chewing gum and toothpaste.

 

Wintergreen (Mentha spicata 'Wintergreen') - Fragrant perennial, this variety of spearmint has the aroma of wintergreen.  Used for aromatic and flavoring purposes.  The leaves can be chewed like a natural chewing gum.